How scientists expose pseudoscientific theories – Rossiyskaya Gazeta

“Together with vaccinations, we are being chipped,” “5G towers are spreading the coronavirus,” and “there really is no pandemic.” All kinds of dense theories do not exist. The pinnacle of this conspiracy iceberg is the teaching that the Earth is actually flat. According to VTsIOM, two percent of Russians are sure of this: they believe that scientists are misleading them when they say that the Earth is in the shape of a ball. How do these “medieval” theories find their place in the age of numbers and artificial intelligence? What other teachings and fake inventions are scientists forced to expose? About this in an interview with a member of the commission on pseudoscience of the Russian Academy of Sciences, academician Mikhail Sadovsky.

Mikhail Vissarionovich, one could laugh at all these “thinkers” taken together, if not for the statistics. Where do so many people with dense thinking come from these days?

Mikhail Sadovsky: Such people were and will be at all times, no matter what next technological revolution humanity experiences, and no matter what country we are in. By the way, in the United States, the percentage of those who believe that the Earth is even more flat than ours. In the UK, there have even been 5G towers set on fire. We don’t have such networks yet, but I think there are just as many people who share this conspiracy theory. The reasons are clear – the level of ignorance in society, unfortunately, is increasing. The president of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Alexander Sergeev, recently drew attention to this in an interview.

What is the reason for this? With the general attack on scientific knowledge that has been going on in recent decades. With the spread of various obscurant teachings. A person with a lack of knowledge tends to “land” the inexplicable. Look for simple answers to difficult questions. By the way, this was most clearly demonstrated by the coronavirus pandemic. Agree, many were somewhat confused, especially at first. In addition, the state of anxiety increased sharply. And at such a moment, the inflamed brain is much more inclined to explain the incomprehensible with a variety of pseudoscientific theories, conspiracies of the world government, the pharmaceutical lobby, etc.

Famous Phrase: Being paranoid doesn’t mean you’re not being followed. After all, a person is weak, and it really is sometimes difficult for him to figure out where is the truth, where is the half-truth, and where is frank nonsense. How to be here?

Mikhail Sadovsky: Only education, the development of critical thinking based on the knowledge gained will help here. Of course, it is impossible to know everything, but you need to read more, compare different points of view, draw conclusions. By the way, now the “Knowledge” society is reviving again. This organization existed in the days of the USSR, and in my opinion, it was of great benefit precisely because of its great educational activities. Famous scientists sometimes came even to the most remote, godforsaken places, gave lectures, answered questions. I’m not even talking about the fact that lectures were given at enterprises, they talked in simple language about complex phenomena. Yes, it happened that they acted according to the order, for show. Remember, there is an excellent parody of this in the old Soviet film “It Was in Penkovo”, when the lecturer himself almost fell asleep while reading the treatise “On Dreams and Dreams” in the village club. But, of course, if you approach this matter informally, then the work of “Knowledge” will educate people and popularize science.

How does the RAS Commission on Pseudoscience work? Are you involved in debunking false theories, for example, around the coronavirus?

Mikhail Sadovsky: If we are talking about “chipping” with the help of vaccinations (smiles – editor’s note), then no. It would be strange if the Academy of Sciences came up with a memorandum on this score. This has nothing to do with science, these are speculations that cannot be commented on. In this case, all this just comes from a lack of education, and some kind of internal psychological problems of such people.

In contrast, we are talking about what a great job both our scientists and the world’s scientists have done, having created several effective vaccines in a very short time. Here is a real triumph of science. Indeed, over the centuries, no other way has been invented to defeat the most insidious, most dangerous diseases. Just think: hundreds of thousands of people, maybe millions, could die from coronavirus if it were not for the opportunity to get vaccinated.

What pseudoscientific theories did the commission make statements on? What kind of response mechanism is there?

Mikhail Sadovsky: Since the 1990s, when the media flooded with publications about the living dead, torsion fields, the extraction of energy from stone and other nonsense, the commission has already issued a number of memorandums. Our main task is not only to debunk anti-scientific theories, but also mainly to counteract the fact that pseudo-inventors of various kinds cannot get close to budget money, presenting their developments at times as brilliant breakthroughs.

So, the commission persistently opposed the projects of inercoids, which were proposed by a variety of inventors. Moreover, even Roscosmos tried to promote them. An inertsoid is a mover of a device that is supposedly capable of moving forward in space without interacting with the environment, but only due to the movement of the working medium inside. But such a mover cannot be created for the simple reason that the very principle of its action contradicts the law of conservation of momentum. It is significant that in May 2008, as part of an experiment, a certain inercoid was installed on the Yubileiny student satellite. The device, the principles of which violated the laws of physics, showed a zero result during the tests, receiving the nickname “gravicapa”. There was also a sensational story with “miracle filters” for water purification, which was actively promoted by one businessman. If not for the activities of the commission, the budget could have lost tens of millions. By the way, the “inventor” then filed a lawsuit against the commission, but lost it.

A memorandum was also issued, in which the members of the commission expressed their opinion on the “fashionable” dermatoglyphics – the practice of studying patterns on the skin of the palms and feet in order to read the fate and character traits of a person. We have spoken and continue to oppose homeopathy. Despite its 200-year history, the practice of “ultra-low dose treatment” has no scientific basis and evidence of effectiveness, and its fundamental principles are contrary to the laws of chemistry, physics and biology.

The mechanism for responding to pseudoscientific theories and fake inventions can be different. Sometimes the initiative to debunk the next “study” comes from the scientific community, members of the commission itself. And sometimes – from law enforcement agencies.

Help “RG”

The Commission for the Fight against Pseudoscience is a scientific coordinating organization under the Presidium of the Russian Academy of Sciences, created on the initiative of the Nobel laureate, Soviet and Russian theoretical physicist Vitaly Ginzburg in 1998. The commission’s task is to promote scientific knowledge and counter the discrediting of science and pseudoscientific activity. Today it includes 46 academicians and corresponding members of the Russian Academy of Sciences.

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